Brighton Festival Review: This Is the Kit & Stargaze*****

Posted On 14 May 2018 at 3:35 pm

Brighton Dome, 10 May

As long-time fan of This is the Kit I held my breath for tonight’s collaboration with orchestral collective, Stargaze. Kate Stable’s trademark purity of voice held spellbound the audience at the much smaller Lewes Con Club in January. I wonder how it will fair in the voluminous caverns of Brighton Dome, but with the first notes of All Written Out In Numbers I let out a contented sigh. Even before the orchestra begins, the music fills the space while somehow maintaining the intimacy of smaller venues.
‘There are very many of you,’ says Kate looking wide eyed around the space and it’s ‘a privilege’ to be here. She’s just so nice! You immediately feel like she’s your mate and you’re sitting around a campfire waiting to hear her sing.
This performance for Brighton Festival marks the UK debut of the band’s collaboration with Stargaze, a dynamic, young, modern classical outfit. Nine members sit in a circle around Stables and the band’s Rozi Plain with strings, wind and brass instruments, enhancing the emotive nature of the music and lending it a new energy and feel.
Many of the songs are from This is the Kit’s latest album, Ivor Novello nominated Moonshine Freeze, but some old favourites, particularly suited an orchestral arrangement, are played too.
For me, one of the joys of this collaboration is the way it enhances the playfulness of the band’s music. Without their full line-up the rhythm and percussion are provided in other interesting ways. In Spinney, members of Stargaze clap the rhythm leading into the song and a plucked cello provides a choppy intro to Two Pence Piece.
There’s a lightness and humour to this music. ‘It’s a song about boiling water and missing hats,’ Stables says of ‘By My Demon Eye’, defying you to take it too seriously.
I find Stable’s voice comforting, like the memories of childhood the lyrics evoke. ‘Time was, climbing, all fours, all fours, Time was all ours for hours and hours,’ she sings in Riddled with Ticks. In Sometimes the Sea, a high quiet violin and flute evokes sounds of seagulls or the wind. And at more joyful moments, the violinists give an animated performance, dancing as they play.
As in childhood, there are many surprises, like the pauses in unexpected places and the many, many note variations while singing one word (I count thirteen during one ‘ooo’). This all serves to trip you up, make you stumble and take you to somewhere unfamiliar, providing a sense of wonder and discombobulation at the same time.
The repetition in Stable’s lyrics is soothing and hypnotic, but this is deceptive – there is melancholy and a touch of darkness there too. In Easy on the Thieves she sings sweetly: ‘People want blood and blood is what they’ve got’. The darker phrases are brought to life and deepened by the cello and wind section. The strings lend further melancholy and poise.
A highlight for me is one of the encore songs, Hotter Colder, where all of the eleven people on stage sing the final chorus in a delicious harmony. This music is ultimately positive and its redemptive and euphoric sound is served well by the orchestra.
This is a seamless collaboration that looks like a lot of fun. I get the feeling that no two performances will be the same and that these innovative musicians will continue re-working and finding new ways to reinterpret This is the Kits’ songs. This date on the band’s ‘never-ending’ European and North American tour was an extra-special treat. Come back to Brighton soon please!

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